The real irony of King Tutankhamun is that his successors tried to destroy all evidence that he ever existed, for political reasons, yet today he is the most famous – and therefore the more eternal – of the Egyptian rulers. They have long since been forgotten; King Tut, the boy king, has survived for eternity.
King Tutankhamun last came to London in 1972 and I remember joining the immense queues winding around the building to see the stunning exhibition at the British Museum. This was in the days before internet booking, so everyone had to queue and there was no pacing, thus it was quite difficult to see the exhibits in a tight exhibition space through the crowds of visitors. How things have changed – for the better, in a world which now has new exhibition spaces at the BM, one of which is currently focused on Troy around 50 or 60 years after the death of Tutankhamun. . King Tut is back in London, this time at the Saatchi Gallery, on his last world tour before he retires to the new museum in Cairo and, through the internet visitors book for a time slot so that numbers at any one time are limited and it is a far better experience to see and admire the exhibits than it was albeit nearly 40 years ago.
The art on show confirms and reinforces the beautiful and intricate craftsmanship, which we could probably not replicate today, but sadly his marvellous golden death mask is not allowed to travel outside Egypt – a replica on show is a poor and crude replacement that reinforces the quality of the original.
The exhibition is, inevitably, a little commercial and you could spend a fortune on add-ons – photographs, audio guide, over-priced cloakroom, digital experience and the like – all ignored by most people because, frankly, the works of art are so amazing that they stand on their own without any of these touristy gimmicks, but if it all helps with the new museum in Cairo – good luck.